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  • July 11, 2014 - Reflections

    By Jean S. Horner
    The other day while walking down a corridor in a public building, I saw what appeared to be someone walking toward me. On coming closer, I found it was my own reflection in a huge mirror. For a moment it frightened me. Somehow a full-length reflection of one’s self is a startling thing. ...

Vantage Point: Rescue the Perishing

By Ken Horn
June 24, 2012

It was the worst disaster in maritime history. The vessel, launched by one of the world’s great powers, was hailed as a super-ship and could hold enough people to populate a small city. But unexpected tragedy struck, sending the ship to the ocean’s bottom with a staggering loss of life.

Most would think I’m talking about the Titanic. But it’s the Wilhelm Gustloff, and it claimed six times the number of lives as perished aboard the supposedly unsinkable luxury liner.

When the Gustloff was torpedoed by a Russian submarine during World War II, it was carrying more than 10,000 people — perhaps 1,200 wounded German soldiers, the rest civilian refugees — crowded into space intended for no more than 1,880. More than 9,000 perished.

The sinking of the Titanic claimed 1,514 lives, with 710 spared.

Why do we know so little about this catastrophe?

The Gustloff was a German ship evacuating civilians from East Prussia, then in the eastern part of Germany, as the Russian army advanced during World War II. The area would be ceded to Poland after the war.

Perhaps the fact that the tragedy occurred during the war has made it less memorable. But there is a more likely reason for the incident’s relative anonymity. Though those who died were mostly civilians, they were Germans, the nationality of the Allies’ primary enemy — and the ship was named for a Nazi. Thus, it would have been difficult to find people in the Allied nations to sympathize.

But that ignores the fact that these were individuals and families being uprooted from their homes, and that many of them opposed the war and Hitler’s rule.

Our prejudices often affect how we relate to people. Sometimes our impressions are true (some aboard the Gustloff were German military who had been active in the war effort); sometimes they are false (it is unlikely that many of the civilians aboard were Nazi sympathizers). But holding a bias, even based on reality, is no reason for a believer to not care if someone, or some group of people, gets saved.

The apostle Peter learned this lesson regarding the Gentiles: “I now realize how true it is that God does not show favoritism,” he said in Acts 10:34 (NIV). The phrase “whosoever will may come” is based on Revelation 22:17. Jesus wants us to care about souls and to “rescue the perishing,” regardless of who they are (Luke 19:10).

Ken Horn

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